War on prejudicial terror

Andrea Assaf addresses the post-9/11 America from an Arab American perspective.

Carter Haaland

What: Eleven Reflections on September

When: April 21-May 1

Where: Pangea World Theatre

711 W. Lake St., Minneapolis

Cost: Student/Senior $12, Adult $15,

 

Post-Sept. 11 America gave rise to the rushed, miscalculated entrance into the war on terror and an onslaught of anti-Islamic sentiments. As we approach the 10-year anniversary of that invasion, time still has not relieved our country of this irrational prejudice, as last summerâÄôs so called ground-zero mosque uproar illustrates.

âÄúEleven Reflections on September,âÄù penned and performed by Andrea Assaf, will be overflowing with controversial cultural commentary and âÄútouchyâÄù American racial identity issues. Pangea World Theatre will play the role of unflinching, unapologetic host to the litigious performance.

âÄúUnfortunately, there really arenâÄôt a lot of theaters in the country that are willing to support politically outspoken Arab-American work,âÄù Assaf said. âÄú[Pangea] has consistently supported Arab-American work throughout their history and since Sept. 11. A lot of theaters arenâÄôt willing to take that risk.âÄù

Since 2001, Assaf has been composing poetry that addresses this issue and reflects on her own personal experiences with 9/11-spawned prejudice and discrimination. SheâÄôs traveled nationally and abroad âÄî including performances in Mexico and Poland âÄî reading her work in a performance called âÄúEleven Reflections on September,âÄù which focuses on poetry.

For her upcoming production at Pangea World Theatre, Assaf has recently adapted her poetry series into an expansive poetry-based, multimedia performance accompanied by originally composed music. To add a new visual dynamic to the performance, Assaf teamed up with local artist Pramila Vasudevan.

âÄúWe started a process back in January doing an in-depth analysis of the poemâÄù, Assaf said. âÄúWeâÄôve gone through a really collaborative process, combing her aesthetic and mine to create a really original video for the piece.âÄù

The live musical element, drawing inspiration from the AssafâÄôs poems and a wide range âÄúun-AmericanâÄù traditional forms, was composed by Salah Fattah, Tim OâÄôKeefe and Aida Shahghasemi.

âÄúIt was really a process of them hearing the poems and me hearing their musical ideas and us trying to work together, then me as the director saying, âÄòThatâÄôs the right tone for this piece,âÄôâÄù ***** Assaf said.

These artistic accompaniments serve to enhance AssafâÄôs evolving poetic voice. As time has dragged on, Assaf has been writing new poetry with new and relevant subject matter that she has integrated into the performance.

âÄúI knew I was going to be doing this presentation at the time when the revolutions and peopleâÄôs movements in North Africa and the Middle East first started, and that made me realize that I had to find a way to include that reality in the show,âÄù Assaf said.

The Arab-American battle for equality and a clean slate falls into that realm of American controversy that sits unaddressed because itâÄôs thought to be âÄútoo riskyâÄù to talk about openly. Assaf hopes that her performance will unzip lips and start the conversations.

âÄúMy intention with this piece is to get communities to really talk to each other about these issues,âÄù she said. âÄúI kind of think of it as the show is Act 1 and the community dialogue and the action that people take afterwards is Act 2.âÄù